As Canadian passengers boarded the Grand Princess cruise ship wait for a chartered plane to take them back home from Oakland, California, Canadian health officials are warning them to avoid travelling on all cruise ships to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr Theresa Tam said, while she had previously “asked Canadians to think twice about going on cruise ships,” now the message is unequivocal. “Today the Public Health Agency of Canada is recommending that Canadians avoid all cruise ship travel due to COVID-19.” The update came as Canada prepared to repatriate 237 Canadians aboard a cruise ship set to dock in California on Monday. Tam pointed out that six of Canada’s confirmed cases are connected to individuals from the first leg of the Grand Princess’ voyage, which occurred between Feb. 11 and Feb 21.
“The virus can spread quickly onboard cruise ships, due to the close contact between passengers,” she said. Since the novel coronavirus started spreading in December, Canada has had 72 confirmed and presumptive cases: 34 in Ontario, 27 in British Columbia, four in Quebec, and seven in Alberta.
Ontario’s tally rose to 34 on Monday with the announcement of three new cases.
“Most of Canada’s cases include travellers from an affected area, or their close contacts,” Tam said. British Columbia is investigating several cases that have spread in the community among individuals with no known contact to travellers.
There were around 3,500 people on board the Grand Princess. The ship had previously been forbidden from docking in San Francisco due to evidence that it was linked to existing cases.
On Friday, the US government confirmed that 21 people on the ship had tested positive for the virus, including 19 crew members.
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